Book reviews: Irene and Camille

Pierre LemaitreAfter an excruciating two-year wait for the Commandant Verhoeven trilogy, I was overjoyed to know that the two remaining books were finally translated from French. They truly did not disappoint and consistently kept me at the edge of my seat that I did not even realize that I had devoured them in one sitting.

When taken as a whole, this three-part series – “Irene, Alex and Camille” in running order – by author Pierre Lemaitre string together as a coherent read. (Read here for my review of the second book “Alex”) Individually, they function equally effective as standalone detective stories.

In “Irene,” the author laid down most of the groundwork to set up his central protagonist Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven. The first case Verhoeven had to deal with was a succession of gruesome murders where the victims were brutally hacked up and methodologically arranged in an almost illogical manner. The pressure ratcheted up when the cases received public attention after the media caught wind of the cases and sensationalized them. Continue reading

Book review: The Three Evangelists

Thank you everyone for your kind words in the last blogpost and I am just so glad to be up and running again. This week, I am back with another crime fiction and just in case you did not know how much I love this genre, you can read it HERE, HERE and HERE.

I was won over by French crime fiction during my last encounter with “Alex” by Pierre Lamaitre, which is packed with a generous dose of thrill, suspense and gruesomeness very much on par with their Scandinavian counterpart. And allow me to boldly say this as a Scandi-novel fan, I did find Lamaitre’s style slightly more entertaining. [My review of Alex HERE]

Curiosity got the better of me and my venture to sample other French authors landed with me with Fred Vargas “The Three Evangelists.” Fred Vargas is the pseudonym used by talented French historian, archeologist and award-winning crime fiction writer Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau.

The Three Evangelists is the first part of the Evangelist trilogy, where Vargas devotes quite a bit of ink to introducing and setting up her main characters. There was not one, not two but a total of three amateur sleuths joined by former disgraced policeman Armand Vandoosler, who found themselves embroiled in the case of a mysterious tree planted in front of the house of retired opera singer Sophia Simeonidis. More worryingly though was the sudden disappearance of Simeonidis herself shortly after.
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Book review: The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag

When I first discovered the Flavia de Luce series a couple of years ago, it felt like déjà vu because the writing style was vaguely familiar though I could not put my finger on what it was. But this time when I picked up the second book from the installment, “The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag,” I got my answer.

The setting of this detective/mystery novel series is in the 1950s, a period slightly after World War Two, in the English countryside, which already is pretty reminiscent of the Miss Marple stories from queen of crime Agatha Christie. On top of that the manner in which main character/amateur sleuth Flavia cracked her cases bore many similarities to Miss Marple’s investigative methods, apart from the fact the former was only an 11-year-old girl.

Because Agatha Christie was one of the reasons I fell in love with crime fiction, Alan Bradley with his Christiesque style of quaint, old school English detective writing was totally up my alley and a fresh breath from the Nordic noir or American contemporary crime fiction that I have been indulging in.
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Book review: Cockroaches [PICS]

Cockroaches I was thrilled when I found out that the latest Detective Harry Hole novel is set in none other than the most visited Asian city – Bangkok.

Having been to the Thai capital a few times, I wanted to read about what alternatives ‘Cockroaches’ could offer from a Scandinavian perspective about the bustling city that is constantly buzzing with traffic sounds and intoxicated with the fumes of motor vehicles. Here was how one of the characters Runa Molnes described the city:

“Can you feel it? The vibration? It’s the energy from everyone around us. It’s in the air. If you’re dying and you think no one can save you, just go out and stretch your arms into the air and absorb some of the energy. You can have eternal life. It’s true!”

Despite being the second book in Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø installment, ‘Cockroaches’ was only translated into English and published late last year and in my opinion is a much delayed addition to the collection. Continue reading

Book review: Alex

195kg46t59vd0jpgThis Halloween if you are looking for something frightful to read, look no further than ‘Alex’ by French author Pierre Lemaitre. This detective thriller will keep your fingers flipping and eyes glued to the pages while chilling you down to the bones.

Alex is the first book of Lemaitre, winner of multiple crime-writing awards, which is translated into English language. As an avid fan of detective stories, I thought I have seen all different types of story plots such that it would be relatively difficult to surprise me any more, but I was wrong. I was AWESTRUCK by this brilliant piece of work and let me explain myself.

At the heart of this novel is gory sex, the basic selling point found in many thrillers, especially in Scandinavian crime novels that I adore, repackaged to exude such calm and sophistication to give it the cold-blooded murder qualities. A young beautiful woman was kidnapped from the streets of Paris after dinner and taken to a warehouse as captive where her kidnapper told her, “I’m going to watch you die.” The details of her confinement are plainly horrifying and gruesome to read:

“All around the rats are watching, not knowing whether to attack her. Then she pulls her hand back, and they fight over the fresh blood, gnawing into the rope for a taste of it; they can’t get enough. But now they’ve had a taste of blood, now that she’s given them her own blood to taste, nothing will stop them.”

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